Tuesday, 30 December 2008


It's the eye of a horrible storm. That time of year where Christmas has passed and you're waiting for New Year. Stuck between two horrific days. I'm off work all week and days just get wasted. Drink til I even get bored of doing that. Wander around town and everyone is out in their new jacket, new shoes, new bag, new hat…new whatever they got for Christmas. Clothes seem to be a popular Christmas gift for others. It's important to people how others see them and it's important that they are out and seen.

While I do appreciate the time off work, the break in routine can be a drag and I fill each day just waiting for the end. I get out of my bed too late to do anything of value or worth and go to bed regretting that I did nothing, hoping that tomorrow will be different.

Having no real life skills also means I never have any food in the house and live day to day as they come, relying on the work ethic of local takeaways when required…at least there are some places for who it's just another day.

Friday, 19 December 2008


My Asperger's Syndrome was only diagnosed recently, about 8 months ago. Before that I lived my life undiagnosed and there was always a niggle at the back of mind; I always knew I was "different", "just not right". That niggling feeling was paired with feelings of inadequacy and inferiority. After all, they were the only things I could think of that could possibly be the root of my issues.

It's taken quite a while, but I've now come to realise something since my diagnosis… I'm not the person I thought I was.

When I initially went for my diagnosis I didn't think much about any effects it would have. A small part of me wondered if it would make any difference to me at all. Yet 8 months later I'm re-evaluating everything. I'm trying to find out who I *really* am. I'm trying to cast off my old skin and grow into my new skin, into my real skin. It's like I can finally stop trying to be what everyone else is and what everyone else wants, and just be who I am. Warts and all. Instead of suppressing and changing, I am now embracing.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Christmas Shopping

I got my Christmas Shopping (the little that I do) out of the way today. I combined it with going to a nearby town to collect my comics as I knew one item I needed to buy was sold in one of those industrial areas that I pass on the way.

Arriving at town, I parked up and went to a chip shop to get some sustenance, however the girl behind the counter asked if it was ok to wait while she cooked up some chips. I declined and said I'd be back later. Here is a tip you can add to your list of life's rules…never say you'll wait for chips in a chip shop as they don't want to keep you waiting too long so they're always underdone and roasting hot as they're right out the fryer.

Outside the comic shop was a ghastly woman on a mobile phone (I think ghastly people undergo some form of operation to have mobile phones transplanted onto their heads) talking about her financial problems in a volume such that anyone in the area could hear. So I pretended to look at some items in the window while I vicariously aided this woman in publicly washing her linen. It seems she was owed some £60 for an electricity bill or other.

Inside the shop a man was already at the counter so I had a browse of the shelves first. Now if you don't buy comics you won't know this, but comic shops are run like no other shop. You don't go in and take things from the shelves…the person who runs the shop has a list of the titles each customer regularly gets and when he gets his stock in he puts any comic on your list into your "file". So when you enter the shop the person running it gets your comics from your file, and you pay for any one-off purchases you may had made that day also. As I was browsing the woman from outside comes in and it appears the man at the counter is her husband. Her voice has not lessened for not being on the phone. She was incredibly loud and recounted a tale to her husband about how someone she knows went to Subway for lunch, and the story involved what they had to eat, with the punch line being "An' guess ‘ow much it was? Eight quid!"

It seems this woman fills her days with quarrels over money and the cost of living. And what was her husband buying? £250 worth of movie memorabilia.

Leaving the comic shop I went to buy some more work shirts so that I don't have to do laundry as often. Two shirts, an' guess ‘ow much? Fifty quid! Annoyed at having to spend so much and wondering where people on benefits buy their clothes, I entered the city centre proper on the hunt for gifts. The streets are always busy at the weekend but now it is nearing Christmas you can barely see 200 yards without your view being blocked by a temporary hut or stall selling this and that. People were, as usual, utterly without agenda and strolled everywhere at 0.5mph while their unruly children ran amok, brandishing rolls of wrapping paper like swords. If a child isn't pushing 99p worth of cardboard tubing into your ribs, someone outside a store is pushing a leaflet into your face, or shaking a bucket full of money, or comforting a crying child. I swear I've never seen so many crying children as I did today.

After telling the 1,000th shop assistant than I was fine and just looking, I still didn't find anything suitable so decided to head home. On the way back to my car I popped by the chip shop but they were now closed. Still, I'd rather have no chips than hard chips that taste like lava.

I actually live quite close to a large town, so I decided to walk there to see if I could complete my shopping. 2,000 "No thanks, I'm just looking"s later and my shopping was finally complete. The next task is the hardest…waiting in line at the Post Office to send the gifts! However that can wait for another day. Tonight I shall lock the gates, bring up the drawbridge and watch a DVD, eat popcorn, drink beer and forget Christmas even exists.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

I'm an Asperger in Neuro-typical world

The world is moving on but not always in ways that are compatible with Asperger's Syndrome (AS). I've been interested in computers and electronic games from their very beginning when the gods at Atari gave us Space Invaders, Pac Man, River Raid, Missile Command and Pitfall. I've stayed with games and computers through the Amstrad CPC, Amiga, then onto PCs and XBOXs. However now games seem to be all about "multi-player", with some games even being multi-player only. I'm fine with games having a multi-player element, but it seems there are forces at work in the games industry to make games only about multiplayer. It's like some self-serving gaming guru has decreed that multi-player is the future and we will be beaten and cajoled until we are all heading in the "right" direction.

I don't want to play multi-player games. I don't want to be forced to communicate with someone over a headpiece to negotiate playing a game. While playing a game I don't want to have to be communicating with other people, either giving or taking instructions. It's not just the unwanted communication, but have you ever played games on-line? It is populated with netizens who are 12 years old and think that throwing racist or jingoistic abuse is funny. Then there is the whole aspect of actually getting a game. No "press A to start" here…oh no. You have to find a suitable "session" that you can join. Then you have to try and last 5 seconds before being booted from it. If you do get to join a game you can do badly and get booted, do well and get booted, or be mediocre and hope to last a few games…before being booted.

In my rare forays into multi-gaming I've always found it best to host my own games. That way I just let people play. If they're rubbish noobs I don't boot them, if they're 1337 and totally pwn me I still don't boot them. I like to be fair…but it's often not enough. You see people come to expect communication from you as the game host, such as unofficial rules or even what we want to play next. So people often don't stick around to play with me much.

Then there is the internet. Once a tool for researching movies, settling arguments and finding out the news of the day, it has now been taken over by "social networking". It's the latest bandwagon and there are many sites onboard. It seems you're nobody if you don't have a facebook account, or a myspace or bebo. No group of adults can be together for more than 5 minutes without talking about facebook, or their wall or their status. Every picture taken at a nightclub is on facebook no more than 20 minutes after being committed to the camera's memory. It's like the world's biggest club and I'm not invited.

And, like multi-player gaming, it seems there are forces at work that want to force you onto their bandwagon. Facebook has launched a technology called "connect" that lets you interact with third-party sites using your facebook details. Is their dream for the future one where everyone is on facebook? That it is all of our home pages?

I guess some people with AS would actually welcome this trend. Maybe I'm being too hasty. Maybe social networking on-line is a boon to those who can't do it in real life? Not for me, though, I seek the companionship of on-line people as much as I do real people. I would get no comfort from seeing all of my "friends" crammed into a box.

Still it's not all bad. Aren't self-service checkouts great? No people on the till, no small talk, no chatty checkout girls, no feeling that people are judging you by the "meals for one" that you're buying.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Lesser symptoms

Asperger's Syndrome (AS) has some quite fundamental affects on your life and some heavy bananas symptoms, but there are some lesser symptoms too. As I keep stressing, with AS not everyone will have these symptoms and others may have lesser symptoms that I don't have. However here are a few I haven't really covered before and don't really warrant their own individual postings.

A strange gait - I've kinda grown out of this a little, but when I was younger I had a very strange way of walking. I'd bounce up and down as I walked and it's another one of those symptoms that are visible to other people. As I've grown up I don't think I walk as bad, but I still walk funny. I hate catching a view of myself in a shop widow cos it reminds me how awkward I look.

Facial tics - again something visual, and something I've all but grown out of. I used to screw my face up either randomly or when stressed in some way. This tic was like a compulsion, and unless you've have a compulsion it's a hard thing to understand. It's like I just had to do it. When I knew I wanted to do it and focused so that I didn't, the more I'd focus the stronger the urge until I had to give in. I now do this sometimes, slightly, when exercising still but that's it.

Awful handwriting - my English teacher told me I have the writing of someone who hates to write. My handwriting has always been bad, so bad even I can't read it. Alas that has carried forward until today. I'm lucky in that I hardly ever have to write as I use computers all the time, and communicate via e-mail…and now that "chip 'n' pin" is here I hardly ever put pen to paper. I do have to take notes at meetings at work though and when I look back a few days later they might as well have been written by a chimp.

The strange thing about these lesser symptoms is that they are all noticeable by other people. Maybe the combination of all three (or four if you count the eye-contact issue) could be a way of possibly identifying people with AS just by observation alone? Maybe I have subconsciously worked at eliminating these as I've gotten older as a way of masking my autism?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Turn ons and turn offs

I'm a terrible procrastinator and rubbish at actually "doing" things. To attempt to combat this I'm trying to keep a list of things I need to do. Things I need to do around the house, or chores that need done, things that need bought, bills that need paid etc etc. When I do something I mark it off the list.

I can't say it's been a 100% success, but I suppose you have to start somewhere. It has definitely helped though, there were a few things I only did because they were on the list and I wanted to do my best to see all the items crossed off.

The things that seem to stay there the longest are anything that involves shopping or phoning people. I'm not overly bothered about shopping really, but it's not my favourite thing to do, and some shops are obviously easier than others. It could also be that my shopping procrastination might just be down to the time of year. Shops are too busy and too noisy at this time of year, and I'm very quick to just walk into a shop…turn around and walk right back out. I've also been a bit busy at the weekends too, so this weekend I'll be very pleased if I can clear all the shopping tasks from my list.

Tasks that involve phoning people though - I dunno, I think they're going to be there for a while. You gotta walk before you can run after all.

Now…if only I had a nice pen with which to maintain this list…

Monday, 24 November 2008

You only get one life

When I used to watch documentaries about people with disfigured faces, 3 legs, no arms, too much hair, allergic to the Sun etc…I would think how horrible it must be; imagine living such that you'll never know normal life. Your ailment is controlling your entire being and you'll never know what it's like to be normal. You only have one life, and yours is fucked. You must feel robbed and cheated. Bitter.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Growing Old

It's funny the things you do when you get older. For example this summer I bought some art. Now I'm not an "art" person, I don't go to art galleries, or museums. I've never read a book on art and if an art show come on TV I'll see if Mythbusters is on the other side. However there was an open-air art festival in the gardens where I live so, while on a Summer's walk down to the beach, I thought it would be rude not to at least swing by. There was lots of your usual stuff, the kind of amateur art I'd have expected to see, however there was someone doing portrait art who had such a unique, edgy style. He had a series of pictures and one really caught my eye. I went back the next day and it was still drawing me in so I decided to buy it.

My latest symptom of growing old is that I thought to myself "I could do with having a nice pen." Where this thought came from I just don't know. It seems that having "nice" things becomes more attractive to you the older you get. So I googled some nice pens and found the one I wanted and I knew of a shop in town that sold them, so I decided to stop by as I did other errands around town. I found the place that sells them and they were pretty much a top-end fancy-things place. They sold Rolex watches, Gucci watches and stuff like that. That was great but here's my problem…the way I look and dress I'd get thrown out of a homeless shelter, let alone a place where you can spend £500 on a set of cufflinks. Nonetheless I entered the dragon's den.

It was a fairly small shop and there were three desks dotted around that had well suited salespeople talking to well-heeled clients. It seems in a shop like this you don't pick what you want from the shelf and take it to the till…you need "consultation". I located the pen bit of the store but the woman was busy with some guy. Three watches lay on the leather-topped table as she talked to him about his work. Why this was necessary to buy a watch I don't really know. I guess it is their job to give their clients the whole personal shopping experience. Maybe he thought he was impressing the sales girl with his job, and his expensive taste in watches. Maybe he was hoping she would think he can take her away from all this and treat her like the princess she thinks she deserves to be. Take her away from the dreary, stuffy job…and, "that man". I skulked in the background but it wasn't a very welcoming place, the atmosphere wasn't one you wanted to drink in, and as no-one was free to "help" me I left and stood outside. I watched through the window for a while but the man didn't budge from his watch-buying. I guess buying a watch is a really big deal for some people. In the end I just bought a Biro.

Maybe nice pens just aren't for people like me? Maybe that's why fat businessmen with ugly wives have nice pens. I guess if you want a status symbol you have to start from the bottom and work your way up…a nice haircut, some expensive fragrance, an Armani suit…and maybe then I could walk into a nice shop and someone will want to help me. Even though you have the money to spend, people only want to take money from people who are playing the game.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Ho ho ho

I hate Christmas. I hate everything about it, from the 3 songs that play on a loop in every store you visit, to the massive queues when you're just there buying a movie to watch at the weekend, to the forced joviality and goodwill to all men. I hate the consumerism.

However I think everyone hates those things, well, a lot of people do anyway. Having Asperger Syndrome (AS) just adds another layer of misery on top. Obviously the queues and the noise in shops mean that shopping for anything is off the agenda until after the January Sales. I'm terribly impractical and a chronic procrastinator so I always leave buying gifts etc to the last second. But the worst thing is having to deal with other people…their wants and needs and expectations. Every year I want to tell people "don't get me anything and I won't get you anything". If I want something I'll buy it. I don't "get anything" from the act of giving or the act of receiving. The only thing I get is stress and anxiety and the fear that people don't like/want what you get them, and having to pretend you like/want what you're given. It's such a sham, why do people do it year after year after year?

Plus nothing is more miserable than being alone on Christmas. AS or not.

It's not just Christmas though, it's my birthday too. I don't tell anyone when it is, mainly because I don't like being the centre of attention, even if it's just 5 minutes of attention. I'd rather not have it. My birthday is just another day. When it is someone's birthday at work it is always made known in advance and there are whip rounds, cards, cakes to be bought, drinks after work that lead on to clubs etc etc. I can do without it all. It's usually not before long that people realise they don't know when my birthday is and ask. I just tell them that I don't celebrate it.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Seven for a secret, never to be told

I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS) quite late in life. As an adult it has been my choice who to tell and who not to tell. It's a horrible responsibility, as information is one way. Once you tell someone something you can't take that back. Having AS isn't just something you might feel embarrassed about…it can have legal repercussions with your employment and might even change forever how people treat you.

To this day only two people know I have AS (three if you count my psych, but she doesn't count). Someone in America that I communicate with via e-mail (how very AS) and my then girlfriend. No-one at work knows, even my parents don't know. The thing is, I've lived many many years like this, so why bother changing? What will it change if people know? I'm sure most people in my life think I'm odd in some way…so I could tell them I have AS and it would answer their questions…but would anything change? Would it stop me being odd? No, so why bother?

If anything it is the fact that things might change that I don't want. I'd hate to feel people are patronising me. I'd hate for people to ask me things, or to do something then pause and add "Is that…ok? You know…with your…'thing'?"

My sister is dyslexic (my family has such great genes) yet she chose to pursue English at university. She made it…but with a lot of help. People had to constantly bend over backwards, give her more time for exams, allow her to resit if she failed, extra tuition etc etc etc. I'd hate that. If my AS stops me doing something I'd rather not do it, than do it only because others make allowances for me.

If I were so inclined, it would probably make things easier at work. AS is a registered disability in my country, and "we" have protection against discrimination. So I could ask my boss that I'd rather e-mail clients than phone them, I could ask for allowances for being taken off one thing and put on something else as I find it hard to switch tasks. There are lots of things I could ask for…if I were so inclined. But it would move me from being "disadvantaged" to being "a victim".

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Going nowhere

I've mentioned a few times that I have a talent with computers, and I've been quite lucky in that it has given me a steady career with a good salary. I do often feel like I'm wasting my talents…and often it is other people telling me I'm wasting them. My problem is that I have no real ambition.

It's not something that's frequently on my mind, but it does get to me when I see ambition in others. Others who I know aren't as skilled as myself. I know fine well that their drive will see them far more successful than I am in my career. I can't begrudge these people their success…no-one is successful by sitting around doing nothing (like me). But I suppose I can't help but feel a little jealous and left out. I don't know why cos I don't really seek status symbols or expensive things. I have enough money to get by and it does me. Maybe I subconsciously think that I'll gain easier acceptance in life if I had more money and status?

From what I've read, a lack of ambition isn't uncommon in people with Asperger Syndrome (AS) which does make me wonder if reports that Bill Gates has AS are true. It's no surprise that I'm not in contact with anyone I went to university with and for me that's a good thing. I really excelled at university and I don't think I could cope with hearing about the great careers of those who didn't do as well as me.

My lack of ambition is something that also troubles a little at work when it comes to "annual review" time. It's quite often that my employers seem frustrated that I'm happy where I am. When they say "where do you want to be in 5 years time" the answer in my head is "right where I am now" but I have to try and dress it up a little. I'll say that I enjoy my job and don't want to move to management as it would mean I couldn't do what I like, so I'd like to still be a programmer, but maybe a more senior one. Or whatever.

The other annoying thing is that fellow work colleagues are always trying to rope me into some scheme or idea they have and are working on outside of work. They recognise my abilities and want me on board. Truth be told my spare time is important to me. More important than making money on the side by giving it up to do more of what I do during the day. That's the big difference between me and most people I work with; they will happily work 9-5 then work 5-10 trying to get their own projects off the ground so they can start their own businesses…put effort in now and reap the benefits later. Me? I'm happy working 9-5 knowing I'll never be my own boss or rich, so long as when I leave work my time is my own.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008


These last three weeks I've been working like a dog trying to meet a deadline. I've been working late, eating junk, working weekends, drinking every night then waking in a haze. Days just run on and on. Now the deadlines are not an issue it is back to service as normal, back to the old routine. I left work on time, went to the gym, I ate something semi-decent for tea but bought stuff to do cooking with tomorrow, bought fruit for the week.

It's quite a relief really. Today I felt quite calm. I'm usually bombing around the supermarket in a stressed-up mess, intolerant and impatient. Tonight I would say I had a stroll around the supermarket. A slow-paced, easy going, stroll.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Back from holiday

I'm back from my brief holiday; I had to go back to the family home for my mother's birthday. The flight up didn't go without incident, but nothing major, it could have been worse. My parents don't put any toiletries in their guest bathroom so this time I decided to take my own. Only it turns out that you're only allowed gels and liquids up to 100ml in volume on a plane. So I had to stand at security while they throw everything bar my toothpaste into the bin. Some things I had only just bought. So I was annoyed at the expense, but at least I was still flying. I could have checked my bag into the hold but that would mean waiting around at the other end.

I don't fly often so I'm not totally blaze about air travel. I'm not scared of it, I don't fear it, but I do get some rational butterflies on take-off. The thing about flying is really the taking off. It's those first moments when you see things you don't normally see and feel things you don't normally feel. After a few minutes, when you finally reach the clouds and all outside is white I can finally relax.

As I said, it was my mum's birthday, it was a "big one" too. My sister got her a jewellery set, my brother some expensive spa vouchers. Of course I don't keep tabs on my family, I don't really know how old anyone in my family is so I didn't know it was a "big" birthday.

I got her a book.

Dad treated us (my sister was also in attendance) to lunch at a really swanky hotel/restaurant. It was so posh that when your table was ready a guy would come get you at the bar area with a tray to take your drinks to your table for you. The food, like the service, was exceptional. Alas it wasn't until many hours later that I'd realise that that was the only food I was getting served that day. It was only 2pm! My parents might be able to last on 500 calories a day but I can't!

Back at my folk's place and it's all so quiet. My parents just sit in absolute silence and read newspapers and books. If I would watch something on TV my dad would come in and tell me to put something else on (something boring as hell usually) then just leave the room anyway!

And my parents' house is also so hot. I'd try and leave the odd door open here and there to cool the rooms down but it never worked, "Shut that door, you're letting in a draft." My parents also hate watching TV. An aunt and uncle came over in the evening and I had some beer to pass the time, but come 10pm I had been up almost 20 hours and hadn't eaten for 8 of them. It was ok when there was only one strand of conversation going, but a divide occurred and two factions spoke about two different things, so I was starting to lose it. Eventually they left and I hit the sack.

Being in a different environment for me is stressful enough, so I was spending most of the time literally counting the seconds. It was like being in jail…but without the three meals a day.

The following day my dad took us on a day-trip to where he always takes us when I visit. I was glad just to get out of the quiet, hot house and kill some time. We went to a small coffee shop that was absolutely packed with young students and I was just overloaded. I could only hear a complete rabble so didn't partake in any of the conversation at the table.

Back to my parents and more hanging around and watching clocks until it was time for tea. This was good food again, but again old person portions, but I was fairly well fed. After tea there was just boring TV to watch, and far too few beers to drink. When the well was dry I just went to bed around 10.30pm. Probably the earliest I've even gone to bed. I downloaded some games to my mobile and just played on that a bit then tried to doze off.

The next day and I was up early to get a lift back to the airport. This was the bit I was dreading the most…saying goodbye. I could tell my mum was looking for some form of physical contact or reassurance. A hug or a kiss, but I could barely look her in the eye let alone hug her. My parents don't know about my Asperger Syndrome (AS), and it's times like this that I feel at my worse. I feel I should tell them, I guess maybe they deserve to know. But I wouldn't know how. I couldn't do it by email as that's not fair, or over the phone. But I don't want to do it face to face either as I couldn't be bothered with the required conversation. So I guess I'll just go on feeling like a horrible person and my parents worrying why I am so "odd".

I got to the airport on time so no drama there. The weather was quite bad, it was wet and windy. I was seated at the back row of the plane so had a good view of the wing and engine from my window seat. An old lady was sitting beside me and she made small-talk about the weather. The pilot warned us that we should expect some turbulence on take-off and until we reach cruising altitude. The old lady beside me read her newspaper through the safety briefing as we taxied to the runway. The plane shook and shimmied as we hurtled down the runway. Not long after takeoff the plane suddenly dipped then rose and I felt my stomach sink as my head was forced down. The two young men in the row in front whooped and wheyed as if on a rollercoaster, and the old woman beside me didn't bat an eye lid as she tried to work out the answer to 5 across. I couldn't work out if she was very well travelled or just didn't give a shit if she lived or died.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

My kind of normal

This morning I had what most people probably consider a normal morning; I had a shower and breakfast. Normally I only shower in the evening, and before I was diagnosed I have to admit I'd only shower every other day. My unusual morning routine was, unfortunately, not quite as it first seemed.

Truth be told, I'm quite depressed at the moment. Last night I got home from work, put the water on for a shower and readied my tea….well, it was a microwave curry so there wasn't any readying. Instead of showering or eating I just drank instead. I drank until I passed out.

I woke up about 6.30am, then drifted in and out of sleep. I got up at 8, turned the water off (it had been on all night), had a shower and had my microwave curry. None of it made me feel any better though. I don't think the awful feeling in the pit of my stomach was hunger. The shower didn't really make me feel awake and fresh either. In fact I felt like a child, woken up at 5am to be hurried and fussed to get to the airport for a cheap price flight. Out of comfort zone and disorientated.

When you have Asperger Syndrome life can often look bleak. Walking around and dealing with people, listening to them talk about their happy lives and happy relationships knowing that you can never have that. That's not for you. Look but don't touch. The world is not your oyster. It can be hard to deal with and depression is never too far away.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Education, education, education

I think I'm pretty much the last of the people to be educated for free in my country. When I was growing up, everyone went from school to university all for free. Then the government started to introduce fees. They started prohibitively high, and then got upped to being preposterously high. These fees are either paid by parents, or just plunge the student into debt. Nowadays the average university leaver is about £10,000 or so in debt. Great way to start your career, huh?

But I digress. I don't remember much about primary school, I don't remember much from early childhood in general. Other than remembering that people who were 16 were really old, and people who were 20 were ancient. I do remember secondary school fairly well, although throughout my whole education I hadn't yet been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS).

Secondary school was where people really started to form friendships, "relationships" even, but that was rare. There were cliques and in-crowds. I had people I mucked around with, but not many, I tended to latch onto single friends. I was never popular, liked by some but actively disliked by many. I think this was probably down to the fact that I hadn't fully learned to be acceptably sociable. I was still saying things without really thinking, offending people left right and centre. I was also developing quite a strong moral code (something else popular among people with AS), a code that seemed to get a lot of people's backs up, especially the teachers. I couldn't stand to see favouritism or double standards, and always vocally fought it. It was at secondary school that I really started to feel like an outsider, to feel that no-one else was like me.

As well as the confusing social side of school, there was the academic side. I wasn't a brilliant student, but I was better than average. They didn't teach any form of computers at my school, so I couldn't study that. However I did take an interest in physics, and I was ok at maths too. I was beginning to learn that if I didn't like a subject I found it very very hard to concentrate. My mind easily wandered and after every parent's evening my folks would come back saying the teachers all said I was "clever but easily distracted".

As I was quite gifted with computers I think my parents thought I was academically gifted in general and super intelligent. Of course the truth was somewhat different, so it did cause some friction. My teachers were saying I was intelligent but didn't apply myself, my parents could see I was exceptional with computers, yet my grades were average to slightly above average. It was a time of many conflicts; I really didn't enjoy school at all.

I was really just waiting for university to start, as it would give me an opportunity to study something I was interested in - all I'd ever wanted to do was work with computers. I was also looking forward to being in a more mature learning environment, mingling with like-minded intellectuals all chasing the same dream.

How naive. University was just high school, only the people had different names and different faces. The only difference was that we were now treated like "adults", and that meant that people could get away with a lot more as you can't give adults a "telling off". While I was working on my projects, my peers were in the student bar. As deadlines neared I had my coursework all handed in, but I was usually the only one. Everyone else started their work the week before the deadline, then complained to the lecturer the day before the deadline to say that they need more time. As everyone was doing it the lecturers always gave in. Not one ever thought to say "well AS4L handed his coursework in two weeks ago so I think you do have enough time". Instead people just got extensions and leeway. Obviously this irked my strong moral code.

People also formed cliques and groups, and things were even more social than school. There were always nights out, parties etc etc. Of course I was never invited to any of them. University left me quite jaded and disillusioned, I thought for once in my life I'd be among like-minded folk, folk like me. Folk for whom socialising isn't everything. It was beginning to dawn on me just how different I was.

Not everyone at university was a waste of space, there were some who were interested in doing well academically ("nerds" I guess you could call them) but they bothered me in their own way. This was the first time I'd met people who were ambitious and talked about what they wanted to do when they left university. They were driven in a way I wasn't (I was obsessed by computers, not driven with them), they had their eyes on the prize and it made me feel quite uncomfortable. Jealous even.

The lowest point of university was the year out in industry we had to do. We had to find a placement, a real job in a real company. My lack of ambition meant I didn't get many interviews, and awful people skills meant I didn't get the jobs for the ones I did interview for. It looked like I was not going to get a placement at all, but I was thrown a pity line at the last minute. A place about 900 miles from where I lived was willing to take me on. I didn't want to move so far away (the money was a pittance too) so I turned it down. However I got a call from someone quite senior at the university who was rather insistant that I take the offer. So I did.

I said previously that I found it hard to get motivated for something I didn't enjoy…boy was that about to hit home. As this was scraping the barrel, the job was very little to do with what I was studying for my degree. I was hardly coding at all and found the job very boring. It was split between two locations so I often said I was at one when I should have been at the other. The reality was that I was often still in bed. It was an aspect of my personality that I really hated. I knew that if I wanted a job in the real world I would have to actually do the work, but I found motivation so hard to come by. I wasn't learning anything and I was 900 miles from home, I wasn't really enjoying it.

Apart from the work, it was the first time in my life that I was in a new town not knowing anyone. I was actually enjoying that aspect of it, being on my own. Always able to do my own thing. I was always at clubs and music venues, or going to the cinema or just wandering around. I was really beginning to explore my anti-social nature, beginning to indulge it. Work was less than happy, though…beginning to realise how often I was actually absent. After six months I'd had enough and told work that I was leaving. The university was furious, but I didn't care. I returned home, dossed for the next 6 months then went back to finish my degree. Of course when university started back everyone was full of stories about how great their placement was, how much they'd learned, how they had job offers for when they'd done their degree. Once more I was left feeling jealous and bitter.

Leaving university firmly behind me I took my education door to door, trying to find a job. However that was only another hurdle I had yet to discover…I was still rubbish at interviews. I always passed the technical part, but failed the call-back when you have to speak to the HR manager, or the MD or something. To this day the only jobs I have ever got have been from interviews that have been purely technical, focusing on what you can and can't do.

It's been a struggle, but I came through it in the end and it all taught me a lot about myself and my capabilities. My strengths and weaknesses.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

We've gone on holiday by mistake

I've had a trip sprung on me, and with quite short notice. It involves planes, booking flights, arranging transport, time off work etc etc. Having Asperger Syndrome (AS) this is not good. I'm bad enough when I have a lot of notice, but having to organise these things at short notice is a nightmare - I'm such a procrastinator. Sometimes you just have to get your head down and do things as they need done. So I have managed to arrange everything I need to arrange but I'm still feeling anxious and nervous. I strongly suspect something will go wrong as something always does when I travel.

There was the time I turned up at the airport without a passport. It was an internal flight so naive me didn't think I'd need one. Damn you Al-Qaeda! Then I missed my flight home the time after that costing about £180 to re-arrange on another flight, not to mention having to extend my holiday by a day, stressful on its own.

Still, at least it will be over with soon.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

How the other half live

I'm involved with a club that runs mainly over the internet, but does meet up from time to time too. We had a small meeting not long ago where my attendance was required, nothing big, just a handful of folk. It was business more than pleasure so it wasn't terrible on a social level, but being among these people…"normal people" without Asperger Syndrome (AS) really drives home just how different we all are.

Despite the fact that we're all part of the same on-line club they all know so much about each other and the lives of other people in the club. There was so much talk about who was doing what, who was saying what and to who, who met with so-and-so at the whatever. Me? I don't even know these people's real names never mind anything else about them. They obviously all spend a lot of time communicating outside of the club, or on "MSN" or "FaceBook" or the other myriad social advances that have left me by. It's not just my lack of social skills that is highlighted, but my complete and utter lack of interest in people. I really don't want to know anything about other people, I have no desire to connect with them.

The worst thing is though…it makes me feel bad, it makes me feel inadequate. I sit alone in my own world dealing with no-one and I'm quite happy. I then meet other people and just how anti-social and barren my life really is, is slapped across my face. I hate meeting people.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The Devil's in the detail

One of the more positive aspects I feel Asperger Syndrome (AS) has left me with is an interest in detail. I can never just know that something works; I have to know how and why it works. This is great for my job with computers and I usually understand things at a level far deeper than most. When it comes to diagnosing a tricky problem, really understanding what is going on deep inside often helps.

It's not just computers either, my interest in the mechanics of things also runs to physics and the mechanics of the world at large. However (as with most things AS related) it does appear to be somewhat selective. I have no interest in chemistry or politics, and the mechanics of machinery is often lost on me.

I'm going to get on a bit of a high horse for a second, but I think it's important that people take an interest in the world around them and how it works. It angers me when people don't take an interest in the news, or don't seem to care about gaining knowledge. Some people even revel in it as if it's a good thing! It's one of the things that separate us from the animals, and you should always be striving to improve yourself. It also angers me when people are so quick to believe things they hear without first researching it. Gullible idiots who believe the claims from the health industry are one of my biggest bugbears. I'm not asking that you gain a PhD in biology, but at least research the basic facts about how your body works, then you won't waste your time doing 50 sit-ups a day thinking it'll give you a flat stomach.

As well as being interested in the details of how things work, I also seem to focus on smaller aspects of a bigger thing. Like if I'm looking at a big vehicle I'm usually looking in detail at an aspect of the engine, the interior, the suspension. I'll note the width and profile of the tyres, how much tread there is and the tread patterns on the tyre. Obviously this isn't beneficial to anything, but I think it's all tied in to the same thing.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Not Alone but Feeling Lonely

Tonight was a work colleague's birthday so we had arranged to meet for food and drinks. The venue was not far from where I live so that was good at least. We were to meet at the restaurant/bar at 7pm which was, as someone with Asperger Syndrome (AS), the first problem. To me "meeting at 7pm" means meeting at 7pm. It's not hard, is it? Apparently so. Cue me waiting for a while for anyone else to turn up.

There were current work mates, past work mates and my colleague's own friends all there and I obviously got on with my own work mates better as I knew them. Some of my colleague's friends attempted to start a conversation but it didn't go well and things quickly ran dry. I actually spent most of my time talking with an ex-colleague of mine who is the opposite of who I would normally enjoy the company of. He is social and likes sport. However I think he is drawn to me as I am very candid in my views and he is quite the man's man. He knows he can talk to me about things most people would take offence at, let alone agree with. He knows no joke is too offensive to tell me, too off colour. My AS gives me an ability to see everything at face value and I call a spade a spade.

Funnily enough the guy that tried to talk to me also tried to spark a conversation with this ex- colleague and the two got on like a house on fire. I guess it's just me. By this point things were too loud and I was getting overload, people were talking but I couldn't hear, I couldn't differentiate one conversation from another. A wall of noise was forming.

After the initial venue a second one was agreed and I went there almost right away, but the others were some time behind. When they did turn up they were all firmly entrenched in their cliques, I was all but forgotten. My colleagues and this guy's own friends all lost in conversation with each other. Shock horror, I was nothing to do with it. People whose company I enjoy and want to spend time with outside of the office were all too busy with bonds they had formed in my absence. So I just went off home and no-one probably even noticed I had gone. I'm sure on Monday I'll hear all about the various pubs they went to, what club they ended up in, and what a great time they all had.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

I have my eye on you

One thing about me is that I'm quite a people watcher. I know lots of people are, so this is one of those things that I'm unsure is connected with my Asperger Syndrome (AS) or not. However I'm quite sure that there is an AS aspect to people watching - having AS means you have to learn social interaction instead of it coming naturally, and how better to learn than to observe?

So despite my rabid asocial nature, I'm actually quite fond of going to the pub (but only occasionally). Pubs can be problematic as they're not really geared up for non-social activity. Any woman in a pub on her own is beset with all manner of unwanted male attention; sharks circling in the menstrual blood. Any man in a pub on his own…well, he's just a weirdo, and I'm also not the kind of person who can just sit and do nothing. These two things mean that the only pubs I'll go to are ones with pool tables. This gives me something to watch, and an excuse to watch. Not just the game but the people playing the game, and not just them but everyone in the pub. I don't know why, but I feel I can stand in a pub watching pool as others might think I'm just awaiting a game. If a pub doesn't have a pool table I won't go there.

Not being particularly posh or well bred I'm not one for wine bars and pubs with dress codes, so I've always been drawn to the kind of pubs that have pool tables anyway; ones with terrible torn carpets and gaffer-taped benches. Looking back to when the social aspects of my AS were really taking hold, it doesn't surprise me that all of my haunts had pool tables. I used to think it was maybe a coincidence, but now I know it was just a sub-conscious decision. When you're living in a bedsit on an incredibly low income in a town where you don't know anyone, there isn't much to do at the weekend. So I spent mine in pubs, watching other people play pool and interact. Young people, old people, single people on the pull, single people on the defensive…I'd watch them all.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm not one for small talk or pub talk, I find it cliché and tiresome. So I'm not that keen when people see the loner and try to strike up a conversation. Depending on who they are I might indulge them for a while, but it often has me leave after I've finished my drink as I don't want to get into that situation where I awkwardly drop the conversation ball. This is one aspect of my AS where I've thrown the towel in. When I was pre-diagnosed a part of me wanted someone to talk to me or strike something up. Part of me thought that was how I could instigate a friendship. Post diagnosis I now realise that I'll never be good at these things and will never strike up friendships in this way…so why bother?

Friday, 12 September 2008

Small talk, small minds

When people without Asperger Syndrome (AS) have conversations when they meet in the street, or at the pub, there are certain rules that seem to be followed. It seems that cliché conversations are perfectly acceptable, as are conversations that involve stating the obvious. Cries of "bloody foreigners, taking our jobs" and other such canned reactions to topical news are the norm. Listening to two non-AS people talk reveals some insights into what I, an AS sufferer, am missing. Or not, as the case may be.

To me a conversation is an exchange of information, ideas and, if needs be, opinions. If there is a news story about how some kid has run amok there really is no need for you to inform the room that in your day your dad would have given you a slap. If there is a story in the Red Tops about a neglected child, or a paedophile, or a rapist there really is no need to tell us how the perpetrator should be castrated, or "left in a room with me and a baseball bat". It appears to me to be conversation for conversation's sake. It seems that non-AS people have a desire to talk, and other non-AS people recognise this and allow them to spew forth the hackneyed opinions they've been told to have by the gutter press. I assume this occurs as they themselves also want to talk for talking's sake and may need to also utter cliché opinions. It's like an "I'll rub your back and you'll rub mine" social club.

I hate this kind of conversation. It seems like keeping up the momentum of a conversation must be done at all costs. When conversation stops you can see people rack their brains for something else to say…anything to say no matter how tired or obvious. One of the reasons I'm rubbish at small talk is that I refuse to take part in this. I'll only add to a conversation if I think I have something unique and/or funny to contribute.

That's not my only problem with small talk though. If I meet someone there is usually something that has happened that I think we have a mutual interest in so can talk about for a short while. But after that, my mind goes blank and we quickly reach uncomfortable silences. Now one thing I don't understand is that surely it takes both people for the conversation to halt, so why do my conversations always halt? Why does one AS and one non-AS conversation fail, but two non-AS conversations don't? I don't know, TBH, I can't explain it. Anyway. That's a one-on-one, if it is a group chat the result is that I am quickly excluded while the other people continue to talk among themselves. This means that I don't mind group situations but I'll quickly tire of them as I am always on the outside, and it seems too much of an effort to break back into the circle. This makes me conscious that I'm seen as "quiet" and "odd". However I get really anxious in a one on one as I know I can't keep conversation going. This is awkward enough if I just meet someone briefly on the street, but my worst nightmare is someone wanting to "do something" with me, or we're in a group situation and the other people need to leave briefly (toilet or whatever) leaving it just me and another person. Much staring into space and awkward atmosphere is guaranteed. The pair of us obviously both praying for the others to return. What is it about me that my input into any conversation is like poisoning the wine?

Even the introduction phase of a conversation is stressful for me. When someone asks how I am, I hate that. I just reply "good". I note that when a non-AS person asks another non-AS person how they are, the other person always replies "Good, and you?" However I can never bring myself to ask someone this. For a start I genuinely don't care how they are, and what if they start talking about something that is happening in their life and I don't know how to respond? Won't they be thinking "why did he ask how I was when he obviously isn't interested?" So when someone asks how I am I never reciprocate…but then I think to myself "should I have asked how they were? Do they now think I'm rude?"

Often I don't even think to make introductions, I'll just barrel into a group situation without saying anything. It's not because I'm rude, but I genuinely just don't think to make introductions. However I have had people say (when they're mad at me for something else and want additional ammo) that my lack of introductions at such-and-such an event was very rude. This just adds to the AS sufferer's general anxiety, as we now think we're constantly offending people but don't know it and they're just too polite to say anything.

The social world can be an awkward place for people with AS, all these unwritten rules and rituals we are completely blind to. All the taboos and faux pas we walk around drenched in. The self-doubt and anxiety. When you have AS you do appear to be a not nice person sometimes but we genuinely can't help it. We don't know we're breaking your rules because no-one has written them down for us.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Not a good day

10.30pm Wednesday and not feeling that great. Had about 3 or 4 hours sleep each night from Sunday and a stressful day at work. Was in meetings a lot, even through my break times, and when I tried to take my breaks later I still had my boss calling me up, and of course my co-workers need my constant attention too and everything piled up.

Got home and was literally exhausted. Lay on my bed instead of going to the gym, got off the bed around 10pm. Not really sleeping, just relaxing and maybe drifting in and out. Haven't eaten or anything. So just back from the supermarket with something to eat and something to drink and I'll sign off. But before I do I'd like to thank microwave meals, 24 hour drinking laws, and Tesco for being open 24 hours to sell alcohol.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

This man's an island

Human beings are social animals, herd animals. We're meant to live in packs and societies. What is life like when this genetic link, ingrained in millions of year's evolution, isn't functioning? If you don't have Asperger Syndrome (AS) there is a whole world of things that you probably can't see yourself living without. Friends, human contact, chit chat to name a few.

Well when you do have AS, the big bad social world is such a chore that you begin to welcome time spent by yourself. Now I'm sure everyone appreciates a little "me" time, but with AS it's not so much that you like the "me" time, it's that you hate the "non-me" time. I don't enjoy being social, I don't enjoy social situations. I get no pleasure from the company of others. I don't enjoy conversing with people, I don't enjoy small talk. So when I'm done for the day and back home I can finally kick my shoes off and truly relax.

Do people with AS get "lonely"? I don't think so. To someone with AS being alone is the equivalent of someone without AS being at a party. If you don't have AS and you can't understand what this is like, imagine talking to someone is like ironing a shirt. Sometimes it is a necessary task but that's all. I don't get anything from being social, it gives me no pleasure or enjoyment. Not only do I get no direct enjoyment from it, I get no indirect enjoyment from it…it doesn't make me feel "closer" to you, it doesn't make me "bond" with you, I don't feel I'm building bridges or friendships toward you. I get nothing from dealing with people. It's often quite the opposite; a confusing chore so when I get a chance to be by my own I enjoy it.

And it doesn't just stop at sitting at home watching TV…I enjoy doing everything alone. Going shopping, going to the cinema, going to the gym - everything. If I can do something with someone or on my own I always get more pleasure doing it on my own cos if I'm doing it with someone else I have a relationship to "manage". Rather than concentrating on the activity at hand I have to think about them and if they are enjoying it, what they might want to do next, or I worry if I'm just ruining the experience for them with my AS weirdness. I have to decipher if there are non-verbal cues I'm supposed to be getting but am of course missing. When I am on my own I don't have any of that to worry about, I can just enjoy the activity.

I appreciate that when someone without AS is engaged in a group activity they have to ensure that their companions are enjoying themselves…but for people with AS it's different. I don't know if you're enjoying yourself or hating every second, and that makes me worried, paranoid and anxious. I'm constantly scanning for hints and ideas as to my companion's current state of mind.

Am I lonely? No, I don't think so. Do I enjoy being on my own? Yes I do. It's hard for us to be vocal about this as it is seen as taboo. No-one wants to be Johnny Nomates. No-one wants to be the sad guy with no friends, so of course you tell the odd white lie. Someone whose post on an internet forum you responded to becomes "This guy I know", or "This mate of mine". I don't feel particularly ashamed that I have no friends, but it's still something I tend to hide from other people because, AS or not, I still want to fit in and not unduly draw negative attention to myself.

So please don't pity our solitary existence, it's what we want.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Aye Aye, Captain

The thing about mental health is that it isn't always visible, it's not like a skin condition, or blindness or alopecia. As Asperger Syndrome (AS) manifests itself in social impairment and other subtle things it is something that is very much hidden. So much so that even the afflicted often don't know they have it. This is good for those of us with AS as it lets us tell who we want and keep secret from who we want.

Or can we?

Without a shadow of a doubt, there is one sure-fire thing to look for in someone with AS, a symptom above all that you can actually visualise…the lack of eye contact. Now as with all things AS, making poor eye contact doesn't mean someone has AS…but if someone has AS they'll almost certainly make poor eye contact.

They say a lot of communication is non-verbal, in fact they say most communication is non-verbal. Well, let's say I don't read non-verbal communication? Why should I look at you when you're only giving off information I can't see? You ever want to focus on something so hard you just close your eyes to block everything out but what you're focusing on? I'm not going to close my eyes when we talk…that would be crazy. So I'll do the next best thing. To stop being distracted and to focus on the words you're saying I won't look at you, I'll look at the wall or something. If I look at you and your expression changes it means I have to wonder what you're doing and what my response should be. If I can't see your expression change I don't have to react to it. I'm only interested in what you're saying so just let me listen. If you want to convey something non-verbal to me then learn to use your words better.

It's not just the lack of need to look someone in the eye...it just feels uncomfortable, I feel exposed and nasty. I don't know what's being asked of me. It's like the other person is trying to establish a bond that I'm not hapy with, like a hug from a stanger.

I tend to deal with some people better than others. When my boss talks to me I try and force myself to look. Mainly cos he's always bollocking me about being aloof. When my co-workers talk to me I try and look at them cos I know it means something to them. I can vary between holding eye contact if we're in a factual conversation, down to making eye contact briefly and frequently but only for a moment before looking away again if we're having anything else. However if you’re serving me a Big Mac or I'm paying for my petrol then forget about it…seriously.

However there is one kind of person I just can't look in the face. There is also a faint tie to my childhood in this respect also, as there was someone in my school with this "trait" much like I have a co-worker with it now - the person who speaks every line like it's a joke. I'm sure you know the person…they're not funny, not at all, but they want to be. So they speak every line with a comedic intonation and a put-on smile cos they know that when they smile the rules dictate you smile also. Well I don't follow the rules, I hate the tone you use to speak when nothing you say is funny, and I hate the grin plastered all over your face. I can't genuinely react to any of it so I can't look at it. I found it hard to deal with as a child, but with my co-worker as we are in a technical environment I use the "thoughtful look away". I look intently into the near distance as if deep in thought, contemplating what they're saying as if it was a great mystery. Or I'll just look at my own monitor as if what I'm doing is so important I can't look away, but I'll still try and talk to you.

It's an annoying trait only found in people with no sense of humour at all, people with very little personality. Rather than be funny, they paint what they say with the trappings of funny as if that on its own makes it funny. And as nothing they say is funny they don't bother discriminating, they just do it with everything they say. Seriously. They can tell you what they had for breakfast but their tone will rise and their grin will widen as if delivering a punchline. I HATE IT. If you're the type of person who only ever gets "nervous laughs" to your constant verbal diarrhoea then just stop doing it…people aren't laughing cos they find you funny, they're doing it cos you're making them uncomfortable.

Monday, 8 September 2008

This island of ours

This weekend I spent a long time in a car, about 8 hours return journey. Not the longest journey I've ever embarked on but tiring nonetheless. I'm not part of the "Tom Tom" generation yet and my phone doesn't have GPS either. There's an atlas in the passenger foot well but even that is just for emergencies. One thing I love about this country is that I could drive from Plymouth to Fort William, Glasgow or Dundee and never even have to look at an atlas. I can get in my car and 12 hours later just be there.

The feeling of freedom in being able to travel such great distances with no assistance is a great example of how technology binds us instead of setting us free.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Sights sounds and smells

Following on from my previous post, the other sensory issue I have is with sound, and this one seems common among those with Asperger Syndrome (AS). For me this is less pervasive than my temperature issues, but when it hits it hits harder.

When there are a lot of sounds going on, especially unfamiliar ones, it's like they all have the same volume. I can't tune in, or tune out to any one sound. When there are five people, all talking to each other, or sometimes to you, you still hear five voices and deciding on who to focus on is hard, and distinguishing their voice from the others even harder. Most frustrating has to be when you are in a group of people in a pub/club and one obviously wants to talk just to you, and you want to listen to them, you strain to listen to them, you try and filter the background sounds out, you try and lip read….but it's all for nothing. Instead you sit there, nodding and pretending you can hear them while all the other sounds crash over you.

This makes it so hard to participate in group conversations that you start to not bother. It is so much effort and you never seem to get it right. Frustration and overload set in and you retreat into yourself. Again you become the "weird one", the "shy one" the one with nothing to say. It's not that I have nothing to say, it's just that I can't navigate this auditory environment. I can't pick and find my way, it's an assault course for which I have no answer. When you've finally thrown in the towel you just sit and stare into space while others converse around you. You then start to realise that you don't really want to talk to these people anyway, you're only trying to fit in and do what they do. That is the moment of no return.

Outside of social situations there are also problems in generally crowed situations. Like going to McDonalds for example. Sometimes it's quiet…more often you're stood in the queue and it's busy and full and people are talking and people are laughing and children are playing and staff are serving and it grows into this uncomfortable wall of noise…auditory punches setting about your head and body. Anxiety sets in and comfort zones are removed. It's like you're the focus of the room and people are directing their sounds directly at you, targeting you in some malicious way, they might as well be stood around you shouting and taunting. You buckle down and try and concentrate on your order and how you'll ask for it when you get to the front of the queue. I swear I'd never eat if I didn't have to.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Constant over-stimulation numbs me, but I would not want you any other way

One of the more enduring symptoms of Asperger Syndrome (AS) are issues with external stimulus. Common problems revolve around noise, touch, the feeling of clothes on your body. Again every person with AS suffers in their own unique way and there is a collective pool of sensory issues we all dip our toes in. My major issues revolve around temperature and sound.

Going back even earlier than my insomnia, a bad reaction to heat is probably the only AS-related thing I've ever heard my parents tell me about when I was younger. Apparently from baby onward I have always hated the heat and hated being in the sun. I'd cry like the baby I was until taken into the shade. This particular symptom seems to have forked into issues with both heat and cold. I appear to be almost impervious to cold, it nears superhero proportions…as if I have a secret Fortress of Solitude, carved from ice somewhere in the Antarctic. No matter how low the temperature gets I never seem to feel it. I can walk around in a gale, the rain or a blizzard and not feel its effects. This in itself is not a problem for me, far from it. It makes "heating" my flat cheaper at least. However every Superman has his kryptonite…

I can't stand the heat. And when I say heat, I mean normal temperatures. It doesn't take much to get me hot and flustered, and when I get hot I sweat buckets. Walking is especially bad for me. When I have to walk somewhere I'm fine on the way, taking advantage of the breeze as I make progress, but as soon as I stop I suddenly overheat and drip sweat. I mean it drips off my nose, runs down my face, drips down the back of my neck.

The worst scenarios are having to go to a shop, and stuff like that. It's not that great when you get to the counter looking like you've ran a marathon. Haircuts are especially embarrassing. It's bad enough when your face is running in sweat, but when someone else has to cut your hair at the same time it's a bit grim. What I tend to do is walk to the hairdresser then wait outside until my core temperate balances out a little and the worst over the sweats is over and mopped up.

Other bad situations are coming out of a shower. I stay soaking for ages…I can dry the shower off but the water is just replaced by a thick coating of sweat pouring down my body as I sit in front of a fan trying to get my body temperature down. In the summer I try and offset this a little by turning the shower cold for a few minutes before I step out of it. I let the cold water crash against the top of my head and carom down my limbs to the gutter below. Also physical activity…even as small as doing the washing up or the vacuuming is again enough to have it dripping off my face.

I have a very minor issue with clothes, I'm not a fan of layers and that includes jackets or anything worn over a T-shirt, but that might be linked with my attempts to not overheat. I'll cover sound in a future post.

Friday, 5 September 2008

People who have been annoying me recently

People in supermarkets who read the newspaper at the top of the stack without moving it anywhere…they just turn the pages and read it with seemingly no thought for the fact that they are stopping others who want a paper from taking one from the pile. They usually turn the pages over a second stack of papers too. How broke are you? Just buy the thing.

People (women) who queue for the ATM then get there and don't have anything prepared. They need to rummage through their bags to find their cards, then they get a statement, then money, then have to secure everything up again before they leave.

People (women) who queue in a shop and when they get to the counter, again….nothing ready (see ATM comment above)

People who come out of a shop doorway onto the street then just stop dead with no regard for others who may also be trying to leave the shop and actually go somewhere.

People who come off an escalator and don't leave the area but hang around wondering where to go, again completely ignorant of others also trying to get off the escalator.

People walking down the street with umbrellas at head and neck height, totally uncaring for anyone who might lose an eye.

People walking down the street with no agenda at all. I'd love to have nothing to do and nowhere to go and be able to wander and amble at 1mph, moving my body into any gap in the crowd to stop anyone passing me, and occasionally stopping dead or just changing direction with no regard for the people whose way I'm getting in.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

How can I help you when I can't help myself?

This subject isn't something I've been looking forward to posting about and if I'm honest I doubt I'll post about it again. However I want this blog to be as honest as possible; I want my Asperger Syndrome (AS) to be as fully vivisected as it can be.

Having AS is having a frustrating, scary, and at times hard to deal with life. We often get overloaded and just fail at being able to cope. When I find myself in those lowest of times I do self-harm. I cut myself and have in the past (but only as a never-repeated experiment) burned myself. I've done other things that I'll stop short of telling you about, but needless to say my body is a patchwork of history.

As I have aged and matured I've kept to parts of my body that I can hide with clothes, but my younger self has pretty much ensured that I have secrets I want to hide but can't. My hands and my forearms are scarred, but it's weird cos I have just accepted it and cos I don't "see" my scars I think that others can't either. What unsettles me the most is when someone makes it obvious they can see them. Thankfully this has been very rare, but when it does happen it makes me think that everyone can see them, they are just too polite to say anything. The irony. Here I am, character assassin extraordinaire relying on the kindness of strangers. Probably the most memorable aspect of my diagnosis was the fact that I didn't think anything of my scars (as normal)…but I instantly noticed when my psychologist looked at them. She was being obvious about it and all my walls and barriers and lies came tumbling down. It was a visual slap in the face, a jerk into the reality of the obvious self-abuse that I deny…quickly followed with questions that began "I see you cut yourself" and other grasps at my dignity.

If I could go back in time I'd tell myself to only injure parts that you can hide.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

How to win friends and influence people

I'll say upfront that my Asperger Syndrome (AS) is on the milder end of the scale. I'm not a shut-in, I don't live with my parents, I'm not a virgin, I can get a bus if I have to, I can go to new places if I need to. In fact I live on my own, I have a good job and always have had, I drive quite a desirable and expensive car, and I have a girlfriend (chicks dig fast cars).

I don't want to pander to stereotypes, but…yes, computers are my thing. I've been blessed in that from a very early age I've always known that I've wanted to work with computers. It's been a blessing as there are so many people who just don't know what they want to do with their lives and they drift from career to career, being the master of none. Not for me. One aspect of AS is that you often have concentrated and singular interests and computers is it for me. From year dot I have been fascinated by computers. Not just fascinated but very good at it too. You see, another aspect of AS is your thinking and problem solving processes, they're often "out of the box" and that helps immensely with computers.

There were always computers in my house. My dad had one and when I still thought Father Christmas was real I too had one. Sure, I played games and pretended it was helping me with my schoolwork, who didn't? But I also delved into programming and really tearing the thing apart (not literally). I've always had a great need to know how things work at the detail level. I don't just want to know what works, I want to know why it works and how it works.

At school age I continued with computers in my spare time cos there were no computer classes available at my school. After school I went on to study programming at university and in the first year I didn't learn anything I hadn't already taught myself. I stuck university out and graduated top of the year and have had a small string of programming jobs since.

Computers are still obvious to me, and while my skills have been described in all manners of hyperbole I still see computers as easy and simple. I've never met a problem I can't solve and often come up with wild and varied solutions. I'm methodical and pay a lot of attention to detail. No mater the company I work for I always rise quickly to the top and I'm always the "go to" guy when you have a problem you just can't solve. Am I super intelligent? No, my brain is just wired differently. I sometimes get frustrated that my co-workers can't see the solution to problems that I often see as obvious, but I'm always just glad to help.

Not to say that work is plain-sailing. Not by a long shot. I have the obvious problems of eye contact and social issues (my boss has told me at annual reviews that he feels I am aloof). I'm also a big procrastinator and don't deal well with changes in tasks. Once I start something I like to finish it, but the nature of my job means that I can be pulled off something to work briefly on something else then have to go back to what I was doing. I hate having to deal with people on the phone and I also get bored very very easily and spend a lot of time just goofing off and mucking around. If I'm doing something new and interesting I can stick at it, but a lot of the time I'm working at a much-reduced rate cos I find what I'm doing boring and I'm easily distracted. Funnily enough that is something my teachers always wrote on my report card…easily distracted. I felt at university too I struggled really badly with subjects I wasn't interested in or didn't see the use of.

I couldn't do without work though. If I won the lottery I would still work. It aids my social world quite a lot, cos if you think about it you can have occasional 5 minute chats here and there at the water cooler or wherever. You can go to lunch with people if you want, take breaks with them if you want, and go for a drink after work if you want. It allows me to be as social or as ant-social as I want. My workmates and my girlfriend are really the only people I ever deal with.

So you can have AS and have what some might consider a successful life, but there is no guarantee of this at all. I was lucky in that I can make a career from my interest, but your special interest might be the cigars most loved by Winston Churchill, and if it is you're kinda screwed.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Never really asleep...never really awake

The first symptom of Asperger Syndrome (AS) that I ever remember having is insomnia. When it was my "bed time" I hated it cos I would never get off to sleep, instead it was like being consigned to jail. I'd be in my bedroom and having to amuse myself but not being able to do anything as my parents would hear and come to my room to remonstrate.

My insomnia really came to the fore when I was involved in a sleep-over with friends. Every single time the friend would just drop right off to sleep but I would remain awake for hours. When you are in someone else's house, what do you do? Nothing. All you can do is just lie awake for hours on end, swimming in unrelenting boredom.

As I got a bit older and stayed over with girls (yes…you can have AS and a girlfriend) at their homes I had all of the same issues. I remember with one girlfriend (I was still an early teen) I had to sleep in her brother's room and I would just be awake for hours and hours. It is bad enough in a normal room, but when your roommate snores (be they male or female) then sleeping becomes almost impossible.

When I'm in bed one of the reasons I can't ever sleep is because my mind just races and races with all these thoughts. Thoughts of what happened that day, thoughts of what I want to do tomorrow, and (the worst) memories of horrors from the past. As a child and young adult I guess I just dealt with it. Not well, but I dealt with it. As an adult I've started to use alcohol as a way of controlling my insomnia. Alcohol is freely available and it is the only thing that I've found works. A few drinks and I'm dropping off the second my head hits the pillow. There are downsides, of course, in a way it is being stuck between a rock and a hard place. I can either not sleep much (I usually get to bed around 3 or 4am and absolute exhaustion usually gets me to sleep) or I can have a few drinks and get 6 or 7 hours sleep. The problem with the former is that I am exhausted the next day, the problem with the latter is that I feel like shit the next day. Take your pick.

I've tried the traditional thing of going to the doctor and been given sleeping tablets but they didn't work. I took the recommended dose but nothing. Next night I took double the dose and nothing. Next night I took double the dose washed down with a lot of alcohol and the next day I was incredibly anxious and jittery, and very depressed. So I went back to the doctor and handed the remaining pills over. And that was the end of that experiment.

The other side affect of (ab)using alcohol to control your sleep is that you start to tick some worrying boxes. Do you drink every night? Yes. Do you drink alone? Yes. Do you drink to cope? Yes. I'd always been seeking an answer to my insomnia but now I know I have AS it has brought a small bit of relief. I still don't have a solution, but I can now come to terms with the fact that I will never have a solution. I can now focus my attention on just coping. I now stay up till 3am most nights (unless I'm drinking), sometimes later. In the morning I just deal with it. To be honest I think I cope with being tired after not drinking much better than I cope with feeling like shit after drinking. But again it is another compromise…I can have a better night and worse morning, or a worse night but better morning. I have no option that satisfies me both evening and morning, I have to enjoy one and suffer the other.

Monday, 1 September 2008

The problem with people

People with Asperger Syndrome (AS) have their brains wired up differently from normal people; it's almost as if the social element of it has been turned off. To have a stab at an analogy, do you ever remember learning to breathe? Or have you just always done it? Now image someone for who the breathing instinct has been turned off and they need to learn how to breathe and consciously think about it the whole time. As you're sat there watching TV they are sat thinking "breathe in…breathe out…breathe in…breathe out…" In social situations it can be like that for people with AS. In social situations we are exhibiting behaviour that we have learned from experience and observation…behaviour that just comes natural to other people.

Now for another analogy. As mentioned above, social interaction is, for us, an effort. Think of something else that is an effort, such as running on a treadmill. It's easy at the start, then it gets a bit of a chore, then it gets tiresome, then it gets too much and you have to stop. That's what it's like for us at a party or a group gathering. As time wears on we wear out and eventually zone out. This "zoned out" situation is one we refer to as overloading. When everything has gotten too much for us the shutters just come down. All desire to pretend to be social have evaporated. That's when we're sat in the corner at our rudest and quietest. It's not because we're horrible people…it's simply that while you've been enjoying yourself and relaxing, we've been running a damn marathon! Now we're exhausted and just want to be left alone.

It is this need to learn social behaviours that probably leads to a lot of confusion in a young person's life. I remember as a child, when someone would fall over and hurt themselves I couldn't care less, it didn't bother me. But other children would rush to the injured child's aid and I could never understand why. Little did I know that my AS was robbing me of empathy, I didn't care for people in peril as (frankly) the person in peril wasn't me. Seeing other people react in a totally different way from you is confusing and worrying when you're a child. So we do something we end up doing a lot of…we fake it. As a child I learned to fake concern by studying the reactions of others. So when a playmate fell over I would mimic the behaviours I saw in others. I still do it now…when a work mate or friend announces their grand parents have died or some disease has befallen them I screw my face up in concern and mutter "Oh no"s and "that's terrible"s just like everyone else in the room does. The reality is that I don't actually care. I know it sounds a horrible thing to say, but I can't help what my brain makes me consciously feel.

As I grew into a (still undiagnosed) adult my perception of this phenomenon changed and as my vulnerability to peer pressure waned and I began to grow in the confidence of my own skin I started to see people as being fake. As a child all you care about is fitting in, so you learn to mimic. As an adult you don't care about fitting in so much and instead start to question the behaviour you see in others. I would think that as I didn't care about this person, others couldn't either so their displays of affection were something I assumed were fake. That they felt just as I do but chose to demonstrate othewise. As I had to learn social interaction I think I view it in a far more clinical manner; to me it is simple cause and effect. I seem to view people's actions in a far more objective and critical way and tend to form opinions about people from their behaviour that others appear to be blind to. It's the classic "wood for the trees" scenario. Normal, social people seem to me to get enveloped in other's personalities, whereas I stand back and view things in a cold, analytical manner. A side affect of this process is that, of everyone I know, I'm far the quickest to say I don't like someone. It's rare for me to hear anyone say they don't like people, or they'll say things like "Don't get me wrong, I really like Joe, he's a great guy, but sometimes he does things that annoy me." You won't get that from me. I call a spade and a spade and I'll just come out and say "I don't like him" and I'll launch into an intimate character assassination, picking off flaws like shooting fish in a barrel.

That then leads onto another facet of AS (are you beginning to see that it all ties together into a big, complicated structure?) - namely that we tend to see things in black and white. I like you or I don't like you. I think you're right or I think you're wrong. I think you should obey a rule, or not obey it. Appreciating shades of grey is hard for me. Maybe I'll expand on that in a later post.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Outing the famous

This kind of relates to my post about painting negatives as positives, but I'd like to know about any famous people that have Asperger Syndrome (AS). The problem with this task is that people with AS think that anyone who has ever done anything good ever, must have AS. Even people who were alive before AS was invented are not safe from posthumous diagnosis. People with AS are supposed to like spinning things and I'm sure Einstein is spinning in his grave.

It seems that "outing" successful people seems to pander to some people's delusions that you can only be a free thinker or innovator if you have AS. It's as if people without AS can't possibly be good at anything, and having AS grants you membership to some club that means you'll probably make something of your life. Yeah...like that other famous AS sufferer Barry George.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

The daily grind

One aspect of people with Asperger Syndrome (AS) is that we can have rigid, inflexible routines. The thing is...everyone has routines, it's normal. Having a routine is important for anything you need doing consistently. For example when you get into your car you probably follow a routine, when you do the dishes you probably follow a routine, and at work you probably have a whole load of routines. However you get people posting on forums - "OMG I think I have AS cos in the morning I get out of bed, I put my underwear on, I go to the bathroom and brush my teeth, then I wash, then I put my clothes on, then I put my shoes on, then I go to work. Does this mean I have AS cos I always follow the same routine?" The answer is, of course, "No". It's normal to have routines.

So what's an AS routine? To be honest, I'm not that hot on routines, it is one of the things I don't register strongly on. I do have them, though. You know your AS routines from your NT routines as they are needlessly rigid, and give you a sense of ease and comfort. You don't follow the routine as it means a task is done consistently, you follow it because it makes you feel calm and safe. My big routine is the gym, I go three times a week and I've had the same exercise plan for over a decade. Ask any body builder or personal trainer and they'll be horrified that someone has had the same plan for so long. The reason being is that you need to be constantly "shocking" your body and pushing it out of its comfort zone, as that is what builds muscle. I know this...I understand it. I've just explained it to you. I know it's bad, so why do I do it? Cos I have AS, that's why.

It's more than just keeping the same routine...if I'm on, say, my third exercise for that day and the machine is busy, I won't do exercise four and come back when the machine for exercise three is available, I'll just wait. If I get bored of waiting I'll just leave and go home. For me the routine can not be broken. Don't ask me to explain why, I just get anxious when I think about breaking the routine. It goes further too. I go to the gym Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In that order...always. If I can't make the Wednesday for some reason I won't go the next Friday either, or the next Monday, but it'll continue the following Wednesday. I have to go on a Monday, then a Wednesday, then a Friday.

That's an AS routine. It is needlessly inflexible and causes anxiety when broken. I have other minor routines too. At the weekend there is a cafe I like to go to and have a breakfast and a large coffee. I can't go anywhere else; looking at other cafes to have breakfast makes me feel anxious. You know you have AS when you rarely have to ask for anything, when the servers always know what you want before you ask, you might have AS. There is also a kebab place when I buy my kebabs from; I walk in and the guy asks "Large doner?" AS routine? No...they just do amazing kebabs, the best in the area and their chilli sauce is to die for. I don't feel anxious buying kebabs elsewhere, I just buy from this place cos they are the best in my area. Not every routine you have is due to your AS.

I won't buy apples that aren't Empire apples. I won't buy jeans that aren't Levi 501s. I know they are AS routines as I feel stressed an anxious if I have to consider buying anything else. I also hate taking time off work as it is a break in my routine.

Anyway, back to the gym. Another AS trait I don't think I have (*) is the issue of personal space. I like personal space, I worship it...but some people with AS have problems appreciating it and can invade the persona space of others. The gym, for me, is a bizarre situation where it seems that everyone else has the personal space issue and not me! I don't like being next to naked fat men with small penises. When I return to my locker and find a gaggle of jiggling man-flesh, I get my stuff and move to a bench where there is no-one else standing around. However no-one else seems to do this. If my locker area is empty when I get to it, but people subsequently turn up, do they think to move elsewhere? NO! They just get all fat and naked inches away from me, bending over as they dry their disgusting crevices. Yuk.

* one of the issues of AS is that you don't appreciate your own symptoms or how annoying they are. If you do, you might not have AS. You tend to only know when you're "breaking social norms" cos someone else has told you your behaviour is unacceptable or unusual.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Physician, heal thyself

I sometimes wonder if I'm the only person in the world who actually has Asperger Syndrome (AS). You see I went to a psychologist and underwent testing to obtain a diagnosis. The only other places you get to "meet" people with AS are on the internet...but they're all "self diagnosed". How can you self diagnose such a thing? If your car engine won't start do you "self-diagnose" what the issue is? Then go around telling everyone that your widget has broken? If the central heating stops working in your house do you "self-diagnose" the issue and go around telling everyone your gromit has split? Of course not...cos if you're not a professional in the field then your diagnosis is worthless.

Yet there is a massive movement of people out there who claim to have AS because they did some pop test on the internet. These tests just ask basic questions and assume that AS is black and white and if you're fascinated with dates you have AS, and if you're not you don't. What rubbish. And how can an on-line test assess the impact your symptoms have on your life? None of these tests ask your background or attempt to eliminate other possible diagnosis. Basically…they're rubbish.

However people post their results on forums with pride, as if being AS is a sport and he who is "most" AS is the winner. Who is to say they didn't take the test a few times until they got the result they wanted? And they don't just stop there. Again I am seemingly the only person in the world who has not only diagnosed myself, but everyone in my life with AS. "My brother, who I'm sure has AS" "This guy in my class, who I'm sure has AS" "My mother, who I'm sure has AS". These are things you'll see plastered all over the internet. If diagnosis of such a complex thing is so simple then maybe I'm in the wrong job? Maybe I should take up psychology instead, and walk around dousing all and sundry with my armchair diagnosis.

As well as the self-diagnosers the other most common posting on internet forums is people asking complete stranger laymen to diagnose them based on a few traits they think proves they have AS.

Why are people seemingly so keen to wear this label? Is it an emo thing? Are people looking to justify their perceived failings in personality? Do they think that if they have AS they can stop blaming themselves and maybe even gain sympathy?

Another extension of this issue is the number of women who "have" AS (I put that in quotes as again they are always self-diagnosed). Official statistics tell us that it is rare for a women to have AS, but a quick search on the internet paints quite a different picture. There are almost as many women who claim to have AS as there are men. Either the professionals have got something terribly wrong, or these "self-diagnosed" women do not have AS at all. Maybe it is self-diagnosis that is wrong?

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Sex, lies and YouTube

Isn't YouTube great? It gives you access to copyrighted material that you'd otherwise have to pay for, let's you see all the music videos you never knew existed, and allows you to find out that Thundercats was actually a bit crap.

It is also being used as a video version of the web based version of the log. You'll find lots of Asperger Syndrome (AS)-focused users airing their thoughts and opinions, as well as general users who also happen to have AS but don't make it the focus of every video they post. And aren't they all boring? People bleating and whining about their problems. People posting complete misinformation as fact. "There aren't many videos on YouTube about ass-burgers so I thought I'd make one" is the mantra they all start with, followed by descriptions of their woes in life and what ass-burgers means to them. You can tell they're all American as Americans are determined to destroy the English language. Why do they pronounce it "ass-burger" when there is no "b" in Asperger? Are Americans really that obsessed with McDonalds?

My favourite piece of misinformation is contained in one of the more popular AS videos on YouTube. In it our host explains that if you have AS you have "half autism". You're half autistic and half non-autistic so have some autistic traits and some normal ones. Geez guy, buy a book and read it.

As well as the people posting the videos you get people who post responses to the videos. These responses are usually from people who think they are "more"AS than the person who made the video, or that the person who made the video does not have AS at all.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Power to the people

Continuing from what I was saying about using the term "aspie" as a gateway to paint Asperger Syndrome (AS) as something positive, I only wish it could end there. I've spent some time looking at AS forums, web sites and videos, and much of what I see and read leaves me feeling a little uneasy. There is a sub-section of people whose delusions that AS is something that makes us "better" is so strong that they seek to personify it. They think that there should be a special educational system to teach people with AS to be the future leaders of the world. Or think that people with AS should form some sort of uber-society of elite individuals. Yeah, and I bet the AGM will be a laugh riot with a bunch of folks milling around not wanting to interact with anyone. The only thing I don’t know about these pro-AS zealots is their stance on gassing Jews.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

What's in a name?

Self reference seems to be an issue with people who have Asperger Syndrome, and rightly so...it's a bit of a mouthful. Personally I use the universally accepted standard of abbreviation, loved the world over by organizations such as NATO, NASA and the USA. To keep in such illustrious company I refer to Asperger Syndrome as "AS" and I refer to myself as "someone with AS".

Alas I am seemingly alone in this practice. The preferred language on the internet is to use the term "aspie". To me that's just a cutsie name and you give cutsie names to dogs and cats, not to mental disorders. It's like calling AIDS "aidsie" or referring to a heart attack as a "harkey". It seems to be another facet of people with AS (do you see what I did there?) to dress up something negative as something positive. The only thing more apt of the phrase "you can't polish a turd" is actually attempting to polish a turd.

AS is a disorder, it is an impairment, it excludes you from the large section of society that is called "normal", it forbids you from interacting with the world on the world's own terms. Why give it a cutsie name like it's a good thing, or a positive thing? Like it's something you should be proud to have, something you want to have curled up at your feet.